Back in the Real World


E-mail from a therapist. 

I've read the letters in this forum and as a person with considerable experience in these areas I feel I need to comment.

I think your readers need to know that in the real world open marriages almost never work.

Granted, rather than sneak around on your spouse and "cheat," it's better to have a mutual agreement on an open marriage. 

But, few of these relationships appear to be successful in the traditional sense.

"  Human beings need to feel someone is exclusively theirs; they don't like their lover or spouse to share his or her affections with anyone else; and they damn well don't like to or think they are in competition with another lover. Marriage is supposed to fix that. "


Maybe that just shows our human frailties, but on this planet that's just the way things are.

Dr. West Replies:

It would greatly simplify things to say that open marriages never work, but that's not the case. 

Research has been done on this topic and the findings show that some of these open marriages not only work but some (including. if truth be known,  a couple dozen U.S. Presidents)  involve  mentally healthy individuals  — individuals that seem to have more personal security and self-confidence than most of the population.

Possibly because of this, they report being happier.

They seem to have gotten past debilitating feelings of jealousy, possessiveness and fears of abandonment -- all things related to unhappiness.

In fact, more than one person has written to say that they opened their marriage in part to force themselves to get beyond these things.

So where does that leave us? 

One writer seems to sum it up best: If either of you have significant doubts about whether you can handle an open marriage, don't try.

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